Dave Kingman knocked in two runs with a single and a sacrifice fly, Brian Giles and Bruce Bochy hit consecutive fourth-inning home runs and Pete Falcone pitched a three-hitter to help the New York Mets over the Cardinals, 4-1 in St. Louis yesterday.

The Cardinals maintained a half-game lead in the National League East over Philadelphia, which lost to Pittsburgh, 4-2. But Montreal and Pittsburgh closed ground, coming within 2 1/2 and 3 1/2 games, respectively, of St. Louis, which has lost six of its last nine. The Cardinals and Phillies open a three-game series tonight in Philadelphia.

Falcone (8-9) struck out four and walked two, losing his shutout in the ninth when Lonnie Smith led off with a walk, stole second, went to third when catcher Bochy threw the ball into center field for an error, and scored on Keith Hernandez' sacrifice fly to right field. Falcone then retired Ken Oberkfell and Gene Tenace to end the game.

"It's a big difference playing contending ball clubs," said Mets Manager George Bamberger, commenting on his last-place team's victory that gave the club a 2-1 edge over St. Louis in the three-game series. "Of our last 18 games, only two are against second-division clubs. It keeps everyone interested. It makes the guys want to play."